YAP ISLAND - MICRONESIA

Yap Airport

Yap, also known as Wa'ab by locals, is an island in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean. It is a state of the Federated States of Micronesia. Yap's indigenous cultures and traditions are still strong compared to other neighboring islands. The island of Yap actually consists of four continental islands (hence the alternative name of the Yap Islands). The four are very close together and joined within a common coral reef and entirely formed from an uplift of the Philippine Sea Plate. The land is mostly rolling hills densely covered with vegetation. Mangrove swamps line much of the shore. An outer barrier reef surrounds the islands, enclosing a lagoon between the fringing barrier reef.

Colonia is the capital of the State of Yap. It administers both Yap proper and fourteen atolls reaching to the east and south for some 800 km (500 mi), namely Eauripik, Elato, Fais, Faraulep, Gaferut, Ifalik, Lamotrek, Ngulu, Olimarao, Piagailoe (West Fayu), Pikelot, Sorol, Ulithi, and Woleai Atolls, as well as the island of Satawal (municipalities in bold).

2000 population was 11,241 in both Colonia and ten other municipalities. The state has a total land area of 102 km2 (39 sq mi).

Culture
Yap is notable for its stone money, known as Rai: large doughnut-shaped, carved disks of (usually) calcite, up to 4 m (12 ft) in diameter (most are much smaller). The smallest can be as little as 3.5 centimetres (1.4 in) in diameter. There are five major types of monies: Mmbul, Gaw, Fe' or Rai, Yar, and Reng, this last being only 0.3 m (1 ft) in diameter. Many of them were brought from other islands, as far as New Guinea, but most came in ancient times from Palau. Their value is based on both the stone's size and its history. Historically the Yapese valued the disks because the material looks like quartz, and these were the shiniest objects around. Eventually the stones became legal tender and were even mandatory in some payments.

The stones' value was kept high due to the difficulty and hazards involved in obtaining them. To quarry the stones, Yapese adventurers had to sail to distant islands and deal with local inhabitants who were sometimes hostile. Once quarried, the disks had to be transported back to Yap on rafts towed behind wind-powered canoes. The scarcity of the disks, and the effort and peril required to get them, made them valuable to the Yapese. However, in 1874, an enterprising Irishman named David O'Keefe hit upon the idea of employing the Yapese to import more "money" in the form of shiploads of large stones, also from Palau. O'Keefe then traded these stones with the Yapese for other commodities such as sea cucumbers and copra. Although some of the O'Keefe stones are larger than the canoe-transported stones, they are less valuable than the earlier stones due to the comparative ease in which they were obtained. Approximately 6,800 of them are scattered around the island.

As no more disks are being produced or imported, this money supply is fixed. The islanders know who owns which piece but do not necessarily move them when ownership changes. Their size and weight (the largest ones require 20 adult men to carry) make them very difficult to move around. Although today the United States dollar is the currency used for everyday transactions in Yap, the stone disks are still used for more traditional or ceremonial exchange. The stone disks may change ownership during marriages, transfers of land title, or as compensation for damages suffered by an aggrieved party.

Language and ethnicity
Yap Proper (known as Wa'ab or Waqab) was initially settled by ancient migrants from the Malay Peninsula, the Indonesian Archipelago, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. The Yapese language is related to the Malay languages of Southeast Asia, though with strong New Guinean influences. In contrast, the people of Yap's outer islands are descendants of Polynesian settlers, and as such have significant ethnic dissimilarities from the people of Yap Proper. Their culture and languages (Ulithian and Woleaian) are closely related to those of the neighboring islands of Chuuk.

Yap State has five official languages: English, Ulithian, Woleaian, Satawalese, and Yapese.